Prostitution in its most basic form is the exchange of money for sexual services. Oftentimes prostitutes are forced into their line of work by pimps or owners in exchange for lodgings and aliment, and although this is a growing issue in America the people of The United States have decided to group all activities exchanging sexual acts for money as inconceivable when in fact, there are many different professions involving the trade of sexual favors for money. An example of this and the main focal point of this essay is the profession know as Sex work. Sex work in its entirety is much different than prostitution, both include most of the same acts and services but sex work is a willing act while the latter is not. The majority is right, Prostitution should not be legalized but the problem with this statement is the obvious grouping of all things under the sex trade as unlawful and “degrading”. Julie Bindel said it best in her online post “Why Prostitution Should Never Be Legalized”, she and the majority of the U.S view all acts exchanging sex for money as “…a form of violence in a neoliberal world in which human flesh has come to be viewed as a commodity, like a burger.”. Individuals, such as Bindel believe that all forms of sex work are examples of women’s inequality and the “neoliberal world” veering its horns into regular society, but what people like her fail to realize is that not all forms of sex work are degrading and often times the women and men who participate in the sex Smith 2exchange are simply exercising the right they have regarding their own bodies. Whether an individual is performing at a minimum wage job or using their bodies to pleasure somebody else, they have the right to perform as many acts as they please. Prohibiting these women and men from exercising this right is a violation to their universal right and is continuously placing these workers in danger of declining health, sex crimes, and wrongful imprisonment. As written in the “Star Spangled Banner” and poem “Defense of Fort M’Henry” by Francis Scott Key, America is “The Land of The Free and The Home of The Brave” but is that true if certain individuals are being denied their most basic human rights? (8)Prostitution began regulation in 1911 after the case of Hoke v. United States, this case stated that “…regulating prostitution was strictly the province of the states.” meaning that the states had the choice whether to outlaw prostitution or continue to allow it (Historical Timeline). In the time period before most states ruled the act of prostitution as illegal, the occupation was common amongst women in early societies. Ancient Rome; founded in eighth century BC and known for its vast empire, had an abundant amount of prostitutes working in its cities. Although generally accepted in the Roman world, they were often referred to as “Infamous” or infamous meaning “…lacking in social standing and deprived of most protections” (Ackerman). This labeled them as undesirables and outcasted them from society. In this time period, prostitution was not a valued profession but the public overlooked this as it was an effective way for women to make a living. In addition to Ancient Rome, prostitution was a common occupation in Athens. Although Rome and Athens had similar perspectives on the topic of prostitution, Athens had a more respected view on the profession, “The presence of the prostitutes in Athens…meant more Smith 3money for Athens, and helped to establish it as a large and cosmopolitan city center.”(Women In Antiquity). Athens was also known for having vast amounts of slaves and it was not unusual for slaves to buy their freedom and begin working in the sex industry independently. Considering the time period, the ability of these former slaves to manage and support themselves as independent women was a huge step for Athenian society. In Athens there were several types of prostitutes, some were more appreciated than others such as Hetairai. Hetairai prostitutes “…had the opportunity to assert themselves, not only physically, but also intellectually.” These women were well versed in politics and philosophy as a result of attending schools specifically meant for Hetairai (Hetaira). Escorts in today’s society hold the closest resemblance to Hetairai, both occupations require the employed to accompany the buyer to an outing and provide sexual services if the host wishes after the initial meeting.In contrast to both Athens and Rome, England’s outlook on prostitution was more accepting and understanding than other countries. In England prostitutes/sex workers were referred to as Ladies of Pleasure, mainly because they only ventured out at night. They often aimed to forge ties with higher society men and live comfortably in financially supported relationships. These women often married high society men who usually happens to be customers (Jane Austen’s World). Most high society men took part in the sex trade as a type of therapy, as a lot of men who buy sex view the interaction. In “Prostitution and Sex Trafficking: Opposing Viewpoints”, writer Jillian Blume recounted her experiences as an escort. She says “…In a lot of ways prostitution is like social work. I’ve had clients with whom I’ve spent hours, just talking.” (87). This may be the reason that most men married prostitutes whose services they’d previously used, the emotional and physical interactions they made forged a bond between the the employer and employee. Unlike Athens and Rome, Smith 4England had various laws and regulations followed by both Brothels and prostitutes in England. Brothels were required toclose brothels on holy days and restrictions on the amount of money that bawds could charge prostitutes for rent. In addition, they were required to identify their establishments by whitewashing the exteriors and painting the signage on thefront wall rather than using wooden signs overhanging the street as most other businesses did.Prostitutes were also required to identify themselves by certain hair and clothing restrictions. Despite attempts made by the government to regulate prostitution and sex work, it wasn’t until Martin Luther released his “95 Theses” in 1517 denouncing many things; such as prostitution that views on prostitutes in English society became negative. Before the preachings in the “95 Theses” had begun taking affect prostitution was very common in England. The existence of prostitutes in early society did not disrupt the development of England nor has it disrupted England’s development today as Prostitution is still permitted with the exception of a few regulations. (Studying Female Prostitution Eighteenth-Century London: An Historiographical Analysis 15-16).Despite the legalization of prostitution in certain countries, others still have a rightful doubt about whether prostitution should be considered a job or not. Everyday millions of people go to minimum wage jobs where they spend time doing manual labor for little to no pay. Sex workers are no different, they work late in the evenings to early in the morning waiting for a john or jane to buy their services. Often times they wait all evening for a man or woman that may never come, but like any other working Smith 5individual they continue to work because it is their job. “Sex workers are laborers who earn money to perform sexual services or who provide erotic entertainment to clients individually or collectively.” says Melinda Chateauvert, author of “Sex Workers Unite: A History of the Movement from Stonewall to SlutWalk”. Chateauvert believes that Sex workers have the right to perform their jobs as any other working individual does, in fact not allowing these workers to do their job is exposing them to many dangers such as whittling health and work violence. Work violence is not uncommon amongst prostitutes, sex workers, and escorts. As many individuals that experience work violence have accounted that speaking about the violence is a very hard topic; but for sex workers and those in the industry it is arguably worse. Society brainwashes these workers into being ashamed of their occupation, they often experience prejudice constantly, and when they are harmed while doing their job they become unable to speak out (Addressing Violence Against Sex Workers). Research conducted with prostitutes in Leeds, England, and Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland, revealed that 30% were punched or kicked by a client, 11% were raped and 22% suffered attempted rape, only 34% of these reported this to the police (Moreira, 4)It can be inferred that violence in the industry is not reported because of the stigma manufactured around individuals in the profession. Most prostitutes and sex workers who have experienced this violence have been conditioned by society to believe they asked to be assaulted which is never actually true but in a vulnerable state a victim can begin to believe the lies they are being told. Smith 6Not only does the illegal status of sex working in the United States stop sex workers from reporting violence but it also stops individuals in the industry from seeking the health care they deserve. There is a large risk of developing a sexual disease in the sex industry, statistics show “Persons who exchange sex are at increased risk of getting or transmitting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.” (CDC 2016). Prostitutes and sex workers are also ill-advised in the availability of contraceptives around them and even if they are advised; they avoid getting the contraceptives because they fear being caught.Additionally, there is another problem to discuss when the topic of prostitution/sex working is spoken about. Punishment for sex workers can be very harsh for a person who is only exercising their right to his or her own body. Imprisoning these women and men violates the right they have to their own body and if the opposing side of sex work truly wants to help stop women from engaging in prostitution they should remove the prison time from the penalty for being a prostitute. The threat of impending prison time is often what stops the individuals who want to get help and leave the sex industry from actually leaving (Carmon). If society wants prostitution and sex work to stop, they might try removing the threat of imprisonment. To truly end prostitution or lesson the amount of those who participate in the sex trade there needs to be an understanding between the two sides of the argument. Oftentimes the opposition argues that sex work and prostitution is “enslavement” and their argument would be more than valid if they could provide the facts to support it. Their argument generalizes the vast majority of people that have chosen to participate in the sex trade because of sexual freedom. It is not fair for society to view prostitution as dirty or negative without Smith 7knowing the reasons behind why some individuals choose to participate (Sex workers unite 88-94). The most common fact they use to backup their arguments are that sex work is the act of Human Trafficking. Human Trafficking is the act of trafficking victims in or out of the country as means for sexual entertainment and slavery. The act of trafficking has been around for a very long time and it is now being confused as sex work instead of the horrible act that it actually is (Paglia 1). By definition, sex working and human trafficking are two very different things. Sex Workers are “…laborers who earn money to perform sexual services or who provide erotic entertainment to clients individually or collectively.” (Chateaevert 2). Among the various types of sex workers are; pornstars, escorts, exotic dancers, and webcam performers, all women who willingly enter the business to earn money. If this were not true, the existence of the Sex Workers rights movement would be obsolete and individuals with a conscience would not be pushing for sexual freedom if there was any chance that it could lead to the decrease in safety of human traffic victims. Human Trafficking is admittedly a huge problem in the United States but to say that it is the result of innocent women and men pushing for sexual freedom and their right to choose their own partner is a generalizing statement.Another loosely based argument against the legalization of sex work is that performing sexual acts for pay is degrading and the act of this was created by men to oppress women. Those who use this argument often generalize because they are unknowingly uneducated. Among the people who view sex work asdegrading are feminists who say they are freeing women of the injustices and violations that have been created by men. Their arguments, while justified, oftentimes cut a Smith 8majority out to make them the minority. They believe that all women have been forced into sex work by men whose only interest is further suppressing women. Author Melinda Chateauvert of “Sex Workers Unite: A History of the Movement from Stonewall to SlutWalk” said this regarding this particular assumption “Sex workers are fighters. They aren’t young girls begging in a freezing Dickensian fog; they aren’t ‘Pretty Women’ looking for Prince Charming…” (1), and to assume that every sex worker is a young girl being brainwashed without truly dissecting the idea that this may not be true, is harming the Women’s Rights Movement more than helping it. Sex work can be boiled down to one specific definition, the exchange of money for sexual services. What many do not understand is the forging of an agreement between the buyer and the seller, they cannot fathom that such an agreement can be made without the coercing of one side to the other, usually the men are the coercers. When the topic of the sex trade is talked about, most individuals blame the men who buy sex instead of coming to the understanding that the trade was an equal agreement. Men are not the sole reason sex is seen as a commodity, the women who take part in this trade have agreed to participate because they have been promised payment in return. The men and women who take part in this equal trade have actively decided to participate not because they are brainwashed but because it was a choice. There is also something many people fail to realize when thinking about the sex trade; women are not the only people who take part in the trade. Yes, there are many women who work as escorts, exotic dancers, and pornstars but there are also various men who work in these professions too. People like to believe that the sex trade only happens between a man or a woman, but the trade can happen between two women, two men, and the women can Smith 9be the buyer while the male is the seller. Certain individuals like to believe that men are the ones who coerce and the women are the ones being forced but the positions can be switched or not true to the situation at all. Sex workers have been pushing and fighting for years to legalize their profession because the United States are convinced that trading sex is bad. The people who believe this do not know the difference between sex work and prostitution. They are more focused on the trade of sex, and when they hear of any situation that involves the exchange of money for sex it is automatically labeled dirty and should be exiled from society. However this is not true, the sex trade provides both women and men in otherwise poor situations with the financial help they need. Sex workers do not have to be economically poor; however, to participate in the sex trade. They can be regular middle class women who trade money for sex because they enjoy it or do not mind earning extra money on the side. Sex workers are not controlled by a pimp or been trafficked from foreign countries to make money, because that is not what a sex worker is. A sex worker has chosen the lifestyle they live for various reasons and these reasons should not be the business of anybody else but themselves. The only thing sex workers are in danger of is the implications proposed by the illegalization of their jobs. If sex work could be legalized, the problems of declining health and work violence could decline throughout the United States. These women and men could finally claim the right health care and report the crimes committed against them without the chance of being arrested. The United States, “Land of The Free and Home of The Brave” should look at the policies they have placed in order to truly be the country they claim to be. The problem with the United States is not the increasing jobs in the sex industry but the Smith 10laws they have made prohibiting thousands of people to make a living. As said by Hugo Schwyzer in Melinda Chateavert’s book “Sex Workers Unite: A History of the Movement from Stonewall to SlutWalk”, “Sex workers deserve the same Legal and cultural protections…as everyone else…and getting them those protections requires bringing their work out of the shadows without stigma.” (210). It is time for the United States to re-evaluate the reasons sex working is illegal and fix the policies they have place on the sex workers in the states.
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